Immigration Law Helping or Hurting Arizonans?

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PHOENIX - Ranch life on the rugged terrain near the Arizona-Mexico border is not for everyone. Cattle ranchers face extreme conditions of intense sun and soaring temperatures -- but there's more.

Ranchers say illegal immigrants have been invading their land and are becoming more dangerous. Those who spoke with CBN News even wanted their identity hidden to prevent retaliation.

"The illegals that we're encountering now are more aggressive and they are not your mom and pop guys looking for a job," explained one rancher. "They're drug runners."

Arizona ranchers near the Mexican border are increasingly concerned about their safety. Click here and here to watch two ranchers talk about the situation along the border and how they are trusting in God to protect them and their land.

The trespassing of illegal immigrants has local ranchers fed up and looking for help. Another rancher said that in one month's time, more than 450 illegal immigrants traveled across her land.

"Right now it is all driven by the drug cartel," the rancher said. "I don't care what people say about this. We live it and we know that the drug cartel is behind it."

"You don't have to be around long to know that it involves money," she continued. "And wherever there is greed and selfishness, there is destruction."

The first rancher added that he's seen houses destroyed while the owners were away.

"They just destroyed them," he said. "And you don't dare leave anything unattended."

Burglaries and vandalism are minor compared to what happened to rancher Robert Krentz and his dog. In late March, it's believed an illegal immigrant killed the two. Police traced footprints from the murder scene to the border.

Arizona Takes Control

That homicide and other incidents pushed leaders in Arizona to do something. The result -- Arizona Senate Bill 1070, also known as the "Support our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act." Gov. Jan Brewer signed the legislation into law in late April.

"It shouldn't take a Rob Krentz on the border who was killed," said State Sen. Russell Pearce, the Republican who authored the bill. "It shouldn't take the line of officers that I mentioned, time and time again, that have been murdered. Four murdered recently. Four seriously wounded from illegal aliens. It shouldn't take that."

"Enough's enough," he continued. "Citizens have a constitutional right for our laws to be enforced. We're going to enforce them here in the state of Arizona."

Pearce said the new law simply enforces what's already been on the books in federal immigration law for 40 years.

"The only difference is now we're going to let them ask the questions that they need to ask when they have reason to believe, probable cause, suspicion," Pearce explained.

State Rep. David Gowan, Sr., a Republican, authored the House version of the bill. He says it eliminates "sanctuary policies," whereby some city leaders tell police not to ask about citizenship.

"All we're trying to do is protect our citizens here in Arizona since the federal government seems to have failed in its duty to protect its border and its citizens," Gowan said. "Sometimes that duty falls on the states and that's what we're trying to do here."

Fear of Racial Profiling

Gowan represents Cochise County, which borders Mexico and is a part of the Tucson sector of the Border Patrol. The sector is the most traveled by illegal immigrants in the entire country.

Altogether, an estimated 460,000 illegal immigrants have slipped across the border to make Arizona their home. Opponents of the new law believe the quest to apprehend illegal immigrants will result in racial profiling.

CBN News spoke with protestors on the state capitol grounds in Phoenix who called the law unconstitutional, saying it unfairly targets Hispanics and that increased deportations would break up families.

"If you know somebody, you will be in a problem," Arizona resident Azucena Corona said. "If you give a ride to somebody, that will be a problem. If you give a job to somebody who needs it for supporting their families, you are in problems. This is mostly about color."

"It violates my rights, civil rights," said immigration law opponent Manuel Martinez.

Supporters, however, say that couldn't be further from the truth.

"The bill specifically prohibits racial profiling," Pearce assured. "(That) really didn't need to be said, but we knew the left wing critics would continue to play this game."

A Christian Duty?

Rev. Eve Nunez, a vice president in the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, said her son has experienced racial profiling, even being thrown to the ground by police. Nunez is against the new law, but wants to make it clear that she and her organization are not for amnesty.

"We need to secure our borders. We need to stop illegal immigration," she said. "I am for that, but we need to treat the immigrants that are here. We need to treat them humanely. Leviticus 19:33-34 says that we should treat immigrants as we treat our own."

CBN News spoke with one Christian rancher who believes the new law can work.

"The Lord expects us to have compassion for one another," the rancher said. "We are to love one another as He loves us. Our country was founded on biblical principles. We have a responsibility to uphold that law."

Unless some action stops it, the new law will take effect July 29. In the meantime, opponents push for a boycott of Arizona, while supporters encourage people to "buy-cott," to help the cash-strapped state.

"We lose over $2 billion a year to illegal immigration," Gowan said. "That's incarceration, education and hospitalization."

It's enough to make nearly a dozen other states stand up and take notice as they pursue their own legislation to deal with the growing call for immigration reform.

*Original broadcast May 17, 2010.

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Mark Martin

Mark Martin

CBN News Reporter

Mark Martin is a reporter and anchor at CBN News, covering various issues from military matters to alternative fuels. Mark has reported internationally in the Middle East and traveled to Bahrain to cover stories on the U.S.S. Dwight D. Eisenhower. Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkMartinCBN and "like" him at